Shuvinai Ashoona at the 2022 Venice Biennale

Installation view of work by Shuvinai Ashoona, Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo by Cheryl Rondeau. Courtesy Dorset Fine Arts.

Congratulations to Shuvinai Ashoona on her epic installation of drawings on view at the 2022 Venice Biennale. She was also awarded one of two special mentions for the Biennale’s Official Awards, alongside American artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. On Ashoona’s work, the jury commented:

“Shuvinai Ashoona reveals in her drawings and paintings a profundity of indigenous Inuk cosmogonies. An existence in which species are interdependent on each other, and which is not mediated by the coloniality of power of the human species. Acknowledging the violences of the colonial enterprise, Ashoona, in her work proposes possibilities of escaping the cul-de-sac by listening in, listening back and listening forward to indigenous knowledge.”

Curated by Cecilia Alemani, the Biennale is titled The Milk of Dreams and includes the work of 213 artists from 58 countries. Artwork themes include bodily representation and metamorphosis; relations between individuals and technologies; and the connections between bodies and the Earth.

Ashoona is the second Kinngait artist invited to participate in the prestigious Venice Biennale. Kananginak Pootoogook (1935–2010) was the first with a series of drawings exhibited in 2017.

Since 2008, Ashoona’s work has been exhibited all around the world, including in various Biennial exhibitions. Her work has been included in bb11, the 11th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2020); Manif D’art, the Quebec City Biennial (2018); Shine A Light, Canadian Biennale at the National Gallery of Canada (2014); and the 18th Biennial of Sydney (2012).

Ashoona (b. 1961, Kinngait) has been drawing since the early 1990s. Her early work focused on depictions of the Arctic landscape, usually monochromatic and rendered using only black ink pen. Today, her work explores a new dynamism through compositions that depict human figures and otherworldly creatures with cleverly hidden imagery, often bursting with colour. Ashoona’s creatures, animals, and monsters are balanced by a very careful and detailed drawing technique. Her graphics are a combination of reality and the imaginative in which she visualizes her own outlook on Northern life. Through continuous experimentation with subject matter, Ashoona’s inventive drawings are consistently at the forefront of contemporary art on a global scale.

Ashoona’s work can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Gallery of Guelph, Canada Council Art Bank, Canadian Museum of History, Hart House Art Collection, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, National Gallery of Canada, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and many more.

The Biennale opens to the public on Saturday, April 23 and runs until November 27, 2022. See Ashoona’s work in the Giardini Padiglione Centrale/Central Pavilion.